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Sports Betting Door Opened a Crack in Oklahoma

Gerson Repreza (Unsplash)

The contentious topic of legal sports betting in Oklahoma has taken another step toward legalization but the controversy surrounding that step is ramping up ahead of the beginning of the Supreme Court case that starts Wednesday in the Sooner State. At issue is the clarification of the powers of Gov. Kevin Stitt who recently negotiated expired compacts with two Oklahoma tribes. Those compacts included “event wagering” which sports betting would fall under.

Presently, “event wagering” is not legal under Oklahoma law but thanks to Gov. Stitt’s recent negotiations with the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and Comanche Nation, legalized sports betting may be closer to reality than most thought possible. That said, there is no shortage of legal challenges ahead for what would be a sudden and surprising legalization of a sports betting platform for the state.

Issues at Hand

Governor Stitt’s problems with lawmakers and Oklahoma tribes started last year when he refused to allow the current tribal gaming compacts to renew on Jan. 1. His position was that the state should be able to renegotiate the compacts instead of letting them ride for another 15 years. He was sued by a number of the major tribes in a suit that hasn’t come to a conclusion yet.

Stitt went ahead and renegotiated with two tribes despite obvious objections, and a host of lawsuits have ensued. Lawsuits have been initiated by lawmakers hoping to check the governor’s power and some of the tribes left out of the compact negotiations that Stitt entered into and completed without due process.

Stitt’s Power

There are many lawmakers in the state of Oklahoma that feel that Gov. Stitt has overstepped his authority in not only renegotiating compacts with two of the Oklahoma tribes but also offering the possibility of legal sports betting in those compacts. Most lawmakers were stunned with the apparent overreach of the Governor, including Attorney General Mike Hunter, Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, and House Speaker Charles McCall. Simply put, all three feel the governor does not have the ability to contradict state gaming law in tribal compacts.

Some members of the Oklahoma legislature have weighed in calling for clarity on the merits of allowing for a sports betting platform that is currently not legal in the state. Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat and House Speaker Charles McCall question whether or not Stitt even had the power or authority to seemingly unilaterally legalize sports betting in Oklahoma.

Hunter first appealed to the federal Supreme Court to get his governor’s decision to not only renegotiate the compact but to allow for sports betting overturned. He called for the compacts to be rejected “out of deference to determinations of state law made by the legal officials in the state.”

The Supreme Court ruled that they could not interfere in state matters.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court was then enlisted after, and their ground-breaking decision is still being considered. Stitt’s power, which he himself has asked the court to clarify is waiting in the wings and will be a huge decision for the state going forward.

The Chances Oklahoma Sees Legal Sports Betting Soon

To say that there are hurdles in the way of a legal sports betting platform in Oklahoma is a major understatement. Before any sort of platform is allowed to go live, the courts will have to decide on a host of questions before them. Depending on what they rule, tribal compacts and the idea of including legal sports betting could either plow forward or be forced back to square one.

Then new the compacts, if accepted, would have to be published in the Federal Register and other tribes in Oklahoma that were left out of the renegotiation of compacts which included sports betting provision would get a chance to have their say. And those tribes mean business – they have removed the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribe from their organization for one year because of their negotiating with Stitt directly.

It’s a Mess

The legal sports betting situation in Oklahoma looked to be striking an optimistic tone but a further look into the situation shows that the parties involved in negotiating its reality have really muddied the waters.

Don’t expect legal sports betting in Oklahoma in 2020, There are too many legal hurdles in the way and too many feeling that have been trampled on to think it’s a reality anytime soon.

The fact that we are talking about legal sports betting in Oklahoma is a positive thing. The way it’s been gone about surely isn’t!